Our future success depends on investment in our people.
The COVID -19 pandemic has demonstrated the importance of having a competent, reliable and flexible workforce.
What is becoming clearer as we move out of the pandemic, is that our workforce in the age services industry is becoming more fragile, with large numbers of managers and employees alike opting to exit the sector rather than continuing to face the constant barrage of imposed change.
So, is there anything aged care providers can do to turn this around and engage their workforce?
They would do well to consider establishing a Workforce Transformation Plan as part of their overall strategic plan.
Organisational reform can deliver value, agility and sustainability over time. By understanding workforce demands, and analysing skills and capabilities needed for specific roles, organisations can develop people strategies that will support the bigger reform.
In sectors like aged care where workforce represents the majority of the organisation’s costs, a Workforce Transformation Plan can have a significant impact on long-term organisational sustainability.
Providing a diverse and committed workforce takes planning, thought and commitment by management and the Board.
Aged care providers can imbed a supportive workplace culture by encouraging people to build their capabilities through taking full advantage of study leave and learning, in a timely way that meets their lifestyle. This creates an enthusiastic workplace culture, supports career opportunities, and makes people feel valued.
Creating career pathways for employees will add to a positive workplace lifecycle and provide opportunities for people to thrive, grow and contribute while enjoying the challenges of lifelong learning.
The future of aged care must place workforce at the forefront of strategic objectives, where skills and competencies are the building blocks for operational success.
To meet future demand, providers will need to be far more agile, flexible and versatile in managing individual and organisational performance.
Priorities for workforce transformation should focus on:
- recruitment practices, understanding the roles and responsibilities;
- being proactive and consistent in ensuring workplace culture is part of the recruitment practices;
- understanding roles and responsibilities as part of recruitment;
- implementing rigorous performance management and review programs;
- creating career pathway opportunities to retain and retrain staff;
- establishing HR policies and practices that reflect transformation rather than focus on supressing innovation;
- supporting lifelong learning including continually reinforcing employee engagement to the strategic direction or the organisation;
- linking training and development to the Workforce Transformation Plan; and
- delivering a sound employee life cycle experience that is people focused and supported by the HR function.
Human resource support should use technology to boost workforce strategies, not to replace people practices. Aged care remains a people business and this should never be forgotten.
Resilient, enthusiastic employees are more likely to be retained, supportive of organisational change, and deliver quality service to residents and families.
But establishing an effective Workforce Transformation Plan is not a quick fix. The whole organisation needs to be committed to workforce reform as part of the bigger organisation future strategy. In the implementation there will be resistance. There will also be frustration, not only at management level but also at lower levels. Some individuals will rise to the challenge, and some will rise up to challenge the change. Therefore, a Workforce Transformation Plan requires commitment from the top to realise its full potential.
As we have seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, business survival requires reacting to operational day-to-day practices quickly and with calm. Workforce reform is no different, it requires commitment, patience and management-led consistency in application.
The new future for the aged services industry will emerge over the next few years—with workplace reform the biggest threat or the biggest saviour.
Chris Westacott is Managing Director, Realise Performance.